Another Year

13 Jan

Title: Another Year
Mike Leigh
Mike Leigh
Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, some language
129 min
Major Awards:
1 NBR Award
IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:

There were three films that I really wanted to watch that made their release in the final days of 2010 to qualify for the awards season: Another Year, Blue Valentine and Biutiful. All three of them looked like the sort of films I could sincerely love and lose myself in, and it’s only now, some two weeks after they have been released, that I’ve gotten the chance to fully experience them. First off was Another Year, the latest from Mike Leigh.

Now, Mr. Leigh is a guy who just doesn’t disappoint, you look at some of his films: Vera Drake, Secrets & Lies, Happy-Go-Lucky, the man is very very good at what he does. And in Another Year he’s at it again, perfectly capturing the everyday life of his characters as he usually does, and again directing his actors to seriously superb performances. Because that’s really what Mr. Leigh does, he tackles the most common topics in life and he makes a movie out of them, and the result is consistently beautiful.

Everyone here is just sensational. Lesley Manville is especially amazing, already having won the Best Actress award from the National Board of Review and gathering some Oscar buzz. But everyone else is really amazing, too. Everything here is a thing of beauty, calibrated to perfection by Mr. Leigh, who slowly but surely crafts something that’s impossible to shake off once you leave the theater. And that’s the quality I adored so much about Another Year, how it seems at first as though nothing much is going on, and yet how he captures the nuances of everyday life, and the little details, and the awesome dialogue and performances end up making the film something truly wonderful and exceptionally memorable. And to be honest, I don’t think there’s a single filmmaker alive that could have made such an amazing film out of these characters and situations.

This won’t be my favorite film of the year, I doubt I’ll even give it an A+ grade, but it has to be one of the ones I’ll recommend the most, because I don’t see anyone not falling head over heels for this gem of a movie. The intimacy you feel with the characters when watching Another Year is astounding, and as I said, so much of it comes from the fact that the film is kind of about nothing at all, and yet once it ends and you see the big picture you see how amazingly all the complexities of everyday life are shown, and the feeling you get from that is terrific.

Mr. Leigh is a master observer, he finds a part of the English society he likes and he casts his wise eyes over it, just looking at it, and capturing their intricacies, and always giving a most amazing outlook at human relationships and how these go. By just observing these relationships and people, Mr. Leigh finds himself asking questions quietly, and the resonance of said questions will only hit us at the very end, and they are always very deep questions that are relevant to each of our lives.

The questions he asks in Another Year have to do a lot with the happiness to be found in life, and the disappointments that can come with it, and dreams and hopes and everything in between. These are, of course, common questions we find being asked in many films every year, but when Mr. Leigh tackles common the result is always something far from it. This is a man who’s probably the best, or one of the best, filmmakers and writers around at exploring the complexities of the human psychology and relationships.

And he’s aided in no small part by his cast. And this is a man who always seems to find the perfect people to join him in his adventures, his movies are always exquisitely written and acted, and you can tell that the creation of these characters was in no part a one-man job, but that they are very much a collaborative effort. And when the collaboration is made between Mr. Leigh and actors such as Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen and Lesley Manville, then the result is bound to be amazing.

Mr. Broadbent and Ms. Sheen play Tom and Gerri, a married couple. He’s a geologist and she’s a therapist. Ms. Manville, on the other hand, plays Mary, a co-worker and friend of Gerri’s. If Tom and Gerri are super stable and consistent then Mary is that typical friend who’s a bit too frantic and energetic and who relies and Tom and Gerri quite a bit. And Ms. Manville truly is spectacular as Mary here, as she throws away all inhibitions and gives a performance that’s really amazing in how far she’s able to go as far as embarrassing herself in order to get us to see all the layers there are to Mary.

Mr. Leigh is just a master at observing these very nuanced aspects of everyday life, and finding the right thing to show and say about them, and, most importantly, he makes us see a bit of ourselves in each of these things. And that’s one of the wonders of Mr. Leigh’s work, how much you can relate to things and how human everything feels. Because Tom and Gerri are two people who could exist, two smart people who are very loving and dependable. And Mary could also very easily exist, the one who drinks, who’s not getting any younger nor any closer to finding a relationship of her own and thus always drops in on her two dependable friends. We can see this happening.

And again, Ms. Manville goes to lengths to humiliate herself, throwing out the window any last hint of vanity she may have as an actress. And those scenes are amazing, because Ms. Leigh has always been very good at showing those social situations in which someone does something embarrassing and we all squirm for them in our seats. And the real skill from Ms. Manville is that many actresses could have played a role like Mary as a sort of caricature of the person, Ms. Manville instead keeps her very much grounded and raw. And that’s what makes Another Year such a beautiful experience, one that I’ll cherish every time I look back on it, one full of human emotions and very real characters, and one that will leave you wishing for the next Mike Leigh film.

Grade: A


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